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What I Learned Doing Customer Support Exclusively For a Week

May 11, 2015 4 min readSelf-Improvement

When I joined Buffer a few months ago, I figured my best chance to add value to the team would be to use my background in statistics, data and growth.

But I recently had the opportunity to drop what I was working on and spend one of the final weeks of my Buffer boot camp solely on customer support for an entire week. It wasn’t a mandatory assignment; more a proposed journey to a different side of the company that could give me a new perspective of Buffer as a product and organization.

Because Buffer has no managers, it was up to me to ask for advice and choose the option that made me the happiest and provided the most value to my teammates.

I decided to jump feet-first into customer support—here’s what I learned.

customer support week

Customer support is rewarding

Yesterday I was discussing my week working in customer happiness with my friend Patrik. I asked him if he thought I should continue focusing on support or jump back into my data and growth task forces.He responded with this simple question:

“How has the change affected your happiness levels?”

The question alone says a lot about Buffer’s values, but, reflecting on the past week, it’s easy for me to see that doing customer support has felt really good!

At Buffer we use the phrase “delivering happiness” a lot, and that’s because it describes what we’re trying to do to a T!

Every one of the support emails and tweets I see the Happiness Heroes send out is full of positivity, empathy, and useful information, and customers really seem to appreciate that. It feels good to be able to solve problems for them, and it’s an added bonus if you can brighten their day a little at the same time. :)

You learn quickly about the product

During my first couple of days, I had to ask a lot of questions and was generally slow to answer support tickets, especially compared to the Heroes who can answer over 100 tickets a day! And they even left the easier tickets for me!

Answering support emails isn’t easy. You have to learn the nuances of the product and be able to solve many customers’ problems for them—there just isn’t much room for error when trying to help someone whose expectations are perhaps not being met.

The result of all this discussion around the basic features of the product is a much improved understanding of how customers interact with the product, especially when they’re just starting out.

Empathy creates a different perspective

It feels good to be able to help someone out with a problem, and it feels bad when you can’t.

When I was working on analyses dealing with user behavior in the aggregate, I was separated from the individuals whose experiences I was hoping to improve.

When chatting with individuals in email threads, I got an exciting new vantage point and realized that there is so much to be learned from just talking to people. I was really able to empathize with the users more. I felt heir pain when they were stuck as well as their excitement when we figured something out.

It makes working on Buffer so much more fun knowing the customers who stand to benefit from each improvement. It also helps to keep the individual users in mind when doing exploratory data analysis, as I can always ask myself if this exploration will one day make Lisa’s/Karen’s/John’s/Sophie’s job easier.

It’s been refreshing to be able to empathize more with the users, and that’s a big reason why doing customer support is so rewarding.

Getting to know the whole team

Before I started doing customer support, I didn’t get as many opportunities to interact with the Happiness team as I would have liked—instead, I spent most of my time talking to engineers and product people. Getting to work with the Happiness Heroes has been a real treat, and I’m so grateful to the whole team for letting me enjoy this experience with them.

Feeling the love and positivity of the Heroes has been a HUGE bonus. Every Hero has been more than willing to help with even the silly questions, and they’re so energetic and fun! So many GIFs!

On top of that, they’re absolutely inspirational in the way they work. Not only are they incredibly quick and efficient, but the way they write with such positivity and understanding is really something to behold.

I plan to keep going

Focusing on customer support is extremely rewarding, as you have a chance to solve problems for users directly. You learn so much more about the product than you otherwise would have, and get to experience the customer journey through the eyes of a new user

There’s a great article on Medium about why every new employee should do customer support, and I’m in complete agreement.

I’m excited to get back to working on data analyses and exciting new products, but I will always be happy that I took time to get to know the customers. I plan on devoting some time every week, if not every day, to deliver happiness to our customers. It just feels right.

Have you ever spent time in customer support even if it’s outside your core area of expertise? How did it go for you? I’d love to hear your experiences in the comments!

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